Ready for the hunting seasons? Sure, many of them have already started, but this time of year is when they are just getting good. The cool morning air. The crunch of leaves under your feet. The feel of your trusty shooting iron in your hands. Those are the images that stick with me when I think of fall.
I’m first and foremost a bird hunter. Oh I’ll go sit in a tree stand or on a stump and wait for nice deer to come by, but I’m not the kind of guy out there planting food plots, running digital cameras and searching for a 160-inch buck. Instead, I like watching a lab root through the grass to put a pheasant in the air. I also like hearing the rush of wings as a ruffed grouse bursts into the air from underfoot. And then there is the rush of wind in the wings as ducks drop into the marsh at sunrise.
Yep, if I can drop it from the sky with a load of bird shot, you can bet I’ll be looking for a good, safe shot.
So, what does a fancy, nationally known gun editor shoot when he’s in the field in pursuit of game birds? Don’t laugh. But my duck gun is a Mossberg 500 adorned with Brownells Aluma-Hyde camo finish and equipped with ported barrel and an extended modified choke tube for use with steel shot. Yes, I shoot steel at waterfowl. A long time ago I went to one of Tom Roster’s CONSEP shooting clinics and saw first-hand that steel kills birds at any range you can hit them. The trick is that steel flies differently than lead, so you have to be more accurate when you shoot. It was a long and complicated seminar, but trust me, I’ve killed plenty of ducks with that old Model 500 and still plan on killing many more.
When I’m out looking for pheasants I tend to carry an American Arms Silver II 12-gauge double my dad gave me. I carry that more for sentimental reasons than anything. It was the first double my dad ever bought and he waited until I was about 17 to buy it.
As we looked at it in the sports shop the day he plunked down his cash he said, “I’ve always wanted a double-barrel. When you were in kindergarten I almost bought one from Herter’s. It was a real nice looking gun, but you kids needed shoes or something, so I couldn’t bring myself to buy it.”
I’m glad I meant that much to him even back then. And for the record, my kids have never gone without shoes so I could buy a gun.
My ruffed grouse and woodcock gun is an Ithaca Model 37 Ultra-Featherlight 20-gauge with the English style stock. With a receiver milled from a block of aluminum and a 24-inch barrel, the gun tips the scales at just over 5.5 pounds. The company only made a few of these guns with the straight stock and I will never give mine up. It is light, easy to carry and best of all I can hit what I’m shooting at with it. That’s a bonus.
This fall is also the first fall my eldest son will come into the field as a full-fledged hunter. We have a Youth Model Mossberg 500 in 20-gauge for him and a couple H&R Topper single-shot guns for him to choose from. He likes the 20-gauge but I want to make sure he has a gun that not only fits him, but isn’t too heavy when he gets in the field.
And of course, if the 12-year-old is hunting, the 9-year-old wants to be shooting, too. So he got a little single-shot .410 for his birthday. Looks like we are ready for the upcoming fall. How about you?